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VINCENNES, Ind. — As many school districts return to virtual learning due to COVID-19 and staffing shortages, Vincennes University is also returning to remote learning.

Vincennes University announced Friday that they are temporarily shifting to virtual instruction starting January 18 at the Vincennes campus. Officials say they are taking this step to mitigate the chance of community spread of COVID-19 based on conditions in Vincennes and Knox County.

Data from the Indiana State Department of Health shows a 7-day average of 64 COVID-19 cases in Knox County. The number of COVID-19 cases has been trending upwards since mid-November and is nearly three times higher than the same time in 2021.

As of January 13, there have been 27 COVID-19 cases across Vincennes University’s campuses.

Vincennes University President Dr. Chuck Johnson says one department at the Vincennes campus had 12 people impacted by COVID-19. This was not just people who were sick. “It’s the people who are in the community who have families who have spouses who have others that that are impacted,” said Johnson.

Johnson said one element that helped with the decision was the holiday weekend. Students already have January 17 off for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day, so the four days of virtual instruction would have a minimal, or lesser impact on instruction. “We think this is a a safe step, a moderate step, not an extreme step to take to help kind of get us through the end of the year,” said Johnson.

The campus still has some activities planned for the week they will be participate in remote learning. This includes basketball games on Monday, and a blood drive later on in the week. These events will still go on, with added emphasis on mask-wearing and social distancing.

On-campus housing will also remain open, with students having access to computer labs for remote learning and the dining halls. Johnson said they are using this as a way to help manage the spread by reducing the load on classes.

“The most vulnerable time, if you will, is when you’ve got students and faculty in a classroom or in a lab environment for an extended period of time where they can’t socially distance as much,” said Johnson. Johnson said he hopes parents and community members take away that they take their responsibility for safety and health seriously.

“We don’t want to take unnecessary chances, and that while we are committed to providing the best quality educational experience for our students,” said Johnson. “We also want to do so in a way that helps keep everybody as safe as possible too.”

The remote learning will take place until after January 21. The university then plans to return to on-campus instruction, events and activities. There will be health and safety protocols in place. This includes restrictions on events with more than 50 people, dividers where face-to-face interactions take place, and strengthening their protocols.

The university is also planning on vaccine and booster clinics for the Spring and managing class and lab sizes. Johnson said faculty, staff and students have been cooperative throughout the entire pandemic, and are able to transition and make these shifts in an effective way.

“We’ve gotten better at this stuff,” said Johnson. “We don’t want to have to keep doing it all the time, but we’ve gotten pretty good at.” People can visit the school’s COVID guidelines page for more information about their protocols.